They Work For You

I’ve referred in the past to the wonderful websites They Work For You and Write To Them. Built by a group of volunteers, these sites provide search tools for Hansard (the British parliamentary record) that allow users to keep track of the activities of members of parliament, monitor the occurrence of topics in parliament, share comments on sections of the transcript, and then contact any of their elected representatives (at local, national, or european level) to initiate or continue discussions with them.

For the past few weeks I’ve been beginning to consider the possibility of similar tools for the United States. There are plenty of people working on tools to increase political engagement, and to begin to transform politics into a more participatory process. Particpatory Politics are a prime example, and so is the fantastic GovTrack. There are new tools such as Civic Space that are building tools for organising and managing campaigns (whether electoral or issue-based), and many 527s provide ways for their supporters to contact representatives. But so far as I can find, there isn’t anything that matches the facilities of the UK sites, or that places the tools in the hands of the general populace.

This post should be considered a call for participants. I’m beginning to pull together ideas on what might be involved in developing that US equivalent on this wiki. Ideas, feedback, participants, they’re all welcome…

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8 comments

  1. Great idea, James. Count me in. Let me know what you need. I’m willing to do any php/mysql work that’s necessary.

  2. Thanks! There’s some info on the wiki, but I probably should have said here that the first task is likely to be to find out which legislatures actually publish transcripts, and then to decide how to proceed from wherever that finds us. And then there’s likely to be lots of nasty screen-scraping to do. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Yeah — scraping is what I thought would probably be needed. Once we get enough interested parties, maybe we go top-down and make assignments. IOW, start with the federal govt level, then assign individual states to different people. Once that’s done, we can look at the municipal level.

  4. Count me in. I make a great cup of coffee. Will that help?

  5. I suspect that depends whether it’s instant coffee, Colin. Most Americans won’t stand for that… But I suspect you can be put to work in other ways 🙂

  6. Sounds like a great idea.

    I’d be willing to add some PHP skills as well.

  7. And I can do some flash animations.

  8. Sounds like something Jenna and I would appreciate, let us know if we can do anything. Jenna is great at editing and publications! I’m great at birdwatching and lighting fires! Let’s see you combine those!!

    We’d be happy to spread word of this in Nashville.